Saturday, February 16, 2019
 News Details
Axed Drabu’s doctrine calls for serious debate
Straight Talk

K B Jandial

Much has been said and written on the unceremonious exit of one time confidante of both Muftis, Haseeb Drabu from the cabinet for his “out-of-box” comment on Kashmir issue at PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s event in New Delhi on March 9. His reported observations that J&K is neither a political issue nor a conflict State have triggered a storm that robbed Haseeb of his coveted position in the Govt. His new philosophy received instant reaction that obviously was diverse depending upon the sensibilities of the region concerned; in Jammu, it was called a new nationalist voice of Kashmir, while some say that he was “crucified” for telling the truth; but Kashmir’s commentators called his doctrine as “height of naivety “while others dismissed it as a “storm in the cup”. Being “close” to BJP high command, many feel that it was said at the behest of BJP. He was compared with political rise and fall of once PDP’s stalwarts like Ghulam Hassan Mir and to some extent, Muzaffar Husain Beig.

The development provided a political opportunity for Mehbooba Mufti to send a clear and loud message, both to her cadre as well as to the alliance partner-BJP, that she brooks no- nonsense on fundamental issues. Since CM alone has the constitutional power to sack her Minister, BJP had no local standi speculative media reports of “annoyance” notwithstanding. Her action was so quick and ‘ruthless’ that none of Haseeb’s supporters, within and outside the party, could muster courage to raise voice, Sajjad Lone and Javid Beig were the sole exception.

What has Drabu actually said that cut his umbilical cord from his mentor? Was he alone at the event themed “Kashmir- the Way Forward”? Apart from damaging sensational media reporting, PDP Supremo got it verified from someone present at the Meet before deciding to axe him as she granted audience to Drabu only after sacking and that too, without waiting for his reply to the notice served on him by the party? Two of Drabu’s then Ministerial colleagues - Altaf Bukhari and Imran Ansari, were present besides Mushtaq Chaya, a well-known promoter of a Hotel chain and Chairman of the local Chapter of PHD CCI. Jammu’s noted businessman Vikrant Kuthalia, Chairman of Jammu Chapter, too was present.

The 53-year old Kashmir’s well known economist, Drabu has spent half of life outside Kashmir starting his career from Planning Commission of India in 1990 and then as Consultant to the Economic Advisory Council to PM. Late Mufti Mohd Sayeed took him as Chief Economic Advisor to CM in 2003 and then made him Chairman and CEO of J&K Bank. Mufti trusted him more than others and tasked him for drafting party manifesto and also gave him PDP ticket from Pulwama in 2014 election from where he was elected to the Legislative Assembly. To respect Jammu’s regional mandate and rope in BJP in forming Govt unmindful of adverse reaction in Kashmir, Mufti replaced Beg with Drabu as his point man who negotiated with BJP and stitched a coalition which late Mufti Sayeed appropriately described as alliance of North Pole and South Pole. He was credited to persuade BJP to keep aside the fundamental ideological conflicting issues. Late Mufti Sayeed had remarked after forming Government, “Drabu has shown us a lot of dreams, let’s see if those dreams are fulfilled”.

While lamenting over the rude shock he got from the same party for violating its known stand for which he had been writing manifestos, Drabu claims to know party’s stand and commitments better than others. Sacking such a confidante for a remark only underlines sharp fissures in PDP, some link it with his participation in Dubai event for Dry Port agreement, but recently Drabu has issued a statement, praising CM’s leadership, considered as an attempt to mend fences with her. He probably has realized that she alone can rehabilitate him.

Party’s internal compulsions apart, it is in public interest to know what actually is Drabu Doctrine which Kashmiri leaders - mainstream to separatists, took so serious umbrage that he became a hot potato to be dropped unceremoniously. This left him friendless. Going by full text of his speech that PDP considered highly controversial, it was interesting to find that Drabu spent quite some time in praising both of his then ministerial colleagues and businessman Chaya and brought Mehbooba in his discourse repeatedly, saying that had CM made it to this event, “she would connect in different ways then we would connect. She has a sense of the ground and perhaps, she could also give you a sense of how she sees things happening”.

Drabu began his speech referring to PHD Chamber of Commerce’s probably 100 years endeavour towards three-word motto– progress, harmony and development, which Kashmir is looking at. Expecting immense benefit of the presence of some members of bureaucracy, foreign policy makers, investors and India Inc., he shared three-point Doctrine for “way ahead” on Kashmir.

The first part of his Doctrine is to do “introspection by the people living in J&K, and nationally, on what are happening, why is happening and how can we solve it?” He made a strong case for “ talking to ourselves , before talking to others” claiming that in last 30 years of militancy the people have lost confidence, creativity and innovativeness that is manifested in different ways- trust deficit, confidence failure etc. He also lamented that “we have been isolated” and blamed ‘our self’ and not Delhi, as is common with every Kashmir leader. His saying so has apparently no problem in Kashmir or his party.

Drabu’s second point was “interaction between people” at different forums like the one he was interacting at. He felt that it would “give us confidence that there are some people who are willing to listen to us and are concerned about us…they will interact with us and we will find a way forward.” Continuing with his thoughts, he said, “It is not a G to G issue. The issue that pervades us in the Valley … is not about government to government, it’s about civil society.”

Here too, Drabu brought in Mehbooba, saying, “…she doesn’t speak much, she’s a doers…” and even quoted her views at an Express Adda, “…for me every tourist or everyone who visits J&K is a much more powerful interlocutor.” And then, he said this precisely is the message – “…If you interact as we have done today, it sets off a series of events. In the process relationships get built. A consequence of all that will happen is an investment, perhaps in any sector. You need to help us in breaking away from the isolationist paradox that we are bottled in.”

Drabu was blunt. He explained that people of Kashmir have made a story of themselves and it has become fiction. He quoted his colleague, “we started believing that the world is a part of Kashmir. The world is not a part of Kashmir; Kashmir is a part of the world.” He said that it is a critical thing whereby the whole process of engagement must start. “We can’t live in fiction for very long. And it’s in that, we need support and help”. This probably is not acceptable to Kashmir!

Drabu called for change of mindset, saying “… An enterprise is not profitable only because of tax concessions.” He gave example of successful businesses being run by Altaf Bukhari and Mushtaq Chaya and said that “a business does not have to be profitable only on the basis of subsidy.” He wanted “this quandary to be resolved in a way to catch up with the rest of the world. Once you do that you will interact”, he concluded his second point.

The third part of the Doctrine cost me his job. Of course, it was critical and probably, Drabu was conscious of it. “Include Kashmir, not only in the matters of investment but also in terms of concerns”. In this context, he told the select audience, “It can’t be just a political issue ...Don’t see J&K as a conflict state and as a political issue, it’s a society, which has social issues... We are trying to find our own space. …it’s not a political issue as far as I can see. I think we have been barking up the wrong tree talking about for the last 50, 70 years, talking about the politics of it, the political situation, how it has never been improved. I think we also seriously need to correct in terms of how it’s a society in search for itself.”

Seeking sharing of knowledge, Drabu had said, “Your knowledge sharing is far more important for us to come out of our pains. And, somewhere let’s not get lost in the forest of symbols.” Referring to the observations of an earlier speaker that Kashmir situation is not as bad as projected by the media, he said that he wouldn’t blame the media “because the media mirrors what the civil society wants. So, all this game that is being played on television channels night after night is a reflection of what the society wants to hear. If you don’t want to hear it, they will not say it”. Concluding his speech, he appealed the participants to find some very interesting opportunities in Kashmir where they would not just make money; you would have a lot of fun.

Some, who knows Drabu well, often say that he is five years ahead of others in his thoughts. There is some element of truth in it. Remember, Kashmir has only filled the past 30 years only and only with blood, either of its own people or of the security forces, but didn’t get anything tangible. There is not even an iota of possibility of achieving the unachievable. What’s the harm in thinking differently? Drabu’s political Doctrine has provided a different narrative on Kashmir. It may not be the final word on Kashmir but has huge merit and worth debating dispassionately, even by the mainstream parties, if not openly but internally. The 70-year old Kashmir’s narrative of political and territorial issue needs to be changed if peace has to be given a chance, may be with more clarity on Drabu’s definition of “social issue”

(The writer is former Secretary Information, health, transport, CAPD departments and a member of Public Service Commission, feedback: [email protected])

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